Online Shaming, Public Shaming

and Your Reputation

You don’t second chance to make a first impression – today your first impression is likely what the Internet is saying about you.

What goes online can have serious and lasting consequences (whether it’s true or not).

In a society of aim and shame we’re no longer afforded the luxury of an oops moment without risking it going viral.

Having a bad day, a meltdown at an airport or lose your cool with a cashier or waitress? Maybe a biker pissed you off while you were driving? Yes – even inside the privacy of your car and you can fall prey to click-bait.

Never doubt your offline actions can have online consequences.

Today with the majority of people are armed with smartphones, you could easily be the next target of public shaming.

Sue Scheff speaks with media frequently on the topic of online shaming and how it can impact your future, especially your online reputation.

As someone that nearly lost her career due to Internet defamation and cyber-shaming, she offers personal insights and experiences to recovery and tools to prevent these digital disasters.

Did you know that 70% of employers will search you online before they even interview you? 75% of colleges screen their applicants social media behavior before they consider them. This is the importance of digital behavior.

Sue Scheff discusses the following key points:

Re-thinking how you share online.

The keyboard can be used as tool or a weapon. In today’s contentious times, we must check-in with our emotions to be sure we don’t use our keystrokes inappropriately. It can be a powerful legal lethal weapon that has the ability to help, heal, hurt or harm each other.

Many people like to blame technology – but it’s humans that control the keypad.

  1. Is it necessary. It’s time to stop using social media as a venting machine. It’s not only what you share, but how you share it. Think twice-post once.
  2. Emotional sharing. Never put a temporary emotion on the permanent Internet. Anger is fleeting — online is forever.
  3. Inappropriate sharing. There’s never a good reason for profanity or sexual content.
  4. Constructive sharing. Disagree with someone? Be constructive, not combative and give yourself permission to click out if you’re in doubt.
  5. Know your audience. Before you share your too much, who exactly have you friended? Some experts ask you to pause to think about “what would grandma think” – the real question is, “what would your employer or potential client think?”

Your online behavior is an extension of your online reputation.

Lead by example – bringing civility and safety back

Being a role model is not only for your kids (many people don’t have children) but for your friends, family, colleagues and future. Keep in mind, your  potential employer or clients might be watching your online behavior too.

  1. Never forward hate, gossip or fake news.
  2. Reach out to people that are being attacked or harmed online.
  3. Block, flag and report abuse.
  4. Don’t use social media and drive a vehicle.
  5. Kindness is contagious. Read stories of good deeds and get involved.
Is online shaming ever useful?

In very rare instances. Overall, using public shaming is not a good idea however there are rare cases where shaming for good has happened.

It starts at the top.

Adults are supposed to lead by example for their children, but more and more we’re seeing parents acting like kids, especially when it comes to sports. Parents behaving badly during youth sports is discouraging coaches from taking positions. One way to combat this immature behavior is to capture it on video and upload to social media.

Aren’t parents supposed to be role models? Having a tantrum on a soccer field or meltdown with another parent certainly isn’t the way we expect grown-ups to act. Maybe when it goes viral they will re-think how they behave in public.

Harassment or activism.

We have also seen where bullying has been disguised as activism and people have been publicly shamed and tormented unfairly.

Although you may not agree with everyone’s point of view, it doesn’t give you a right to harass or bully them. In today’s increasing world of technology, our keypad is a tool that can be used to help causes or hurt people.

When activism turns into digital or civil warfare, the message will likely get lost and all people will remember is static noise. Change can’t and won’t happen through this type of behavior.

Dealing with negative reviews and trolls.

Don’t wait for cyber-combat to happen, have your army ready. Building your online reputation is being proactive. Creating your digital presence through social media, your website and blog — then maintaining it by engaging with your followers will help you if you are ever attacked.

The fact is, no one is perfect, the chance you may end up with a hater someday is very possible. If you build your strong support system, they will likely understand when you have that one troll that is unhappy.

But never underestimate the damage that some trolls can do.  Know that 85% of people rely on reviews as much as they do personal recommendations so it’s imperative you keep your online reviews current.

  1. Respond cordially and promptly to online reviews.
  2. If they get combative, take them offline as quickly as possible.
  3. Be pragmatic with refunds and other ways to “make it right” with the customer, even if they’re wrong.
  4. Encourage (generate) more customer reviews.
Steps to take if you’re being harassed online.

As someone that won an internet defamation case, there are steps you need to take if you believe you are being defamed, stalked or bullied online and may potentially have a lawsuit.

  1. Document the attacks. Take screenshots of all the evidence. You might want to just push delete, delete, delete. But if things escalate, you’ll need to have some
    documentation. Print it out, keep it in an online folder, put it on a thumb drive, download any videos to an external hard drive—but do save it.
  2. Block the offenders. Blocking functionality is available on social media platforms, as well as phone calls, texts, apps, and email. Once you block them, be sure you have a friend monitoring them for you.
  3. Report the offenders. Review the website’s or platform’s Terms of Service (TOS) or Code of Conduct, to identify what actions are considered violations, then politely ask the service to remove offensive comments, in accordance with its guidelines, and to ban the violator from the platform. Beware—some sites, especially those that seem to foster harassment and revenge porn, have been known to thumb their noses at victims and reprint emotional take down requests, so don’t get overwrought in your tone. Stick to boilerplate legalese.
  4. Try to identify the attackers. Are you being harassed or stalked, and it’s escalating? Maybe you are fed up with the cyberslime an anonymous user is posting about you. To identify that person’s IP address, you will need to file
    a crime report with law enforcement, says California Senior Officer Mike Bires.
  5. Cut the criminals off. If you ever find yourself being extorted for money over explicit materials, treat it like you would any other form of blackmail. Report it to the appropriate authorities.
Steps to maintaining your online reputation.

Never doubt your online behavior is an extension and reflection of your online reputation. Be proactive before a disaster strikes, this will soften a blow if a troll attacks.

  1. Google yourself regularly.
  2. Set-up your Google alerts.
  3. De-clutter your contacts/friends. Think quality over quantity.
  4. Maintain your privacy settings frequently on all your social platforms.
  5. Keep your websites and blogs updated. Consider them an extension of your business card.
  6. Leave constructive comments on articles of interest in your fields of interest.
  7. Engage with your followers. Humanize yourself, don’t be one-sided.
Steps to building digital resilience.

Today we protect ourselves online from cyber-hate and trolls but the emotional toll can be overwhelming, not only for young people, but for adults too. We all need to be prepared for the dark-side of the Internet.

  1. Talk to your kids about the ugly side of social media. (People can be mean).
  2. Learn how to block, flag and report abuse on social platforms.
  3. Understand that not everything is real – online. There are filters and many ways to manipulate images. There’s a reason why people refer to Facebook as Fakebook.
  4. Critical thinking. Think about the possible consequences of what you’re about to post. Fifteen minutes of humor is never worth a lifetime of humiliation.
  5. Make an effort to socialize more offline with your online friends. Communicating solely behind a screen can be isolating.
Avoid public shaming.

In an age of cruelty and trolling we’re all a click away from digital disgrace. Years ago you may have let your anger flare when a speeding car cut you off, or someone accidentally bumped into you while walking — maybe your toddler is having their tantrum and you lose your cool, but today what was considered normal human behavior a generation ago can be your Internet infamy. It only takes one stranger (or worse, maybe someone you know)  with a smartphone and you’re moment of indiscretion is now global.

  1. Be mindful of your surroundings. (It’s not only people with smartphones, video cameras are everywhere today).
  2. Be self-aware of your actions. (Your offline behavior has online consequences).
  3. Anger is temporary, online is forever. Short-term gratification is not worth long term ramifications.
  4. Have zero expectancy of privacywherever you are. (Planes, trains and automobiles – included).
  5. Treat others are you want to be treated. You should have no problem.
Parent Shaming.

With the majority of parents armed with smartphones and opinions, we’re now at risk of being judged for every mistake or decision we make, especially when it comes to parenting our children, parent shaming (judgy moms or adults acting badly) is on the rise.

Do people take the time to find out the backstory of a viral hit? Have they never had their parenting oops moment? Why are people so quick to point fingers and vilify these parents?

As Melissa Fenton eloquently wrote when the tragedy hit Disney as a toddler lost his life to a alligator, “Put down your pitchforks” — unless you are a perfect parent, never believe that bad things can’t happen to good people. Accidents happen, terrible things happen — no one is immune. To add salt to their already bleeding wounds is nothing short of inhumane.

Lessons from celebrity shaming.

From athletes to entertainers and anyone in the public arena, never doubt they are the prime target of an internet troll.

What can we learn from how celebrities handle haters?

  1. Shaming doesn’t define who you are.
  2. Bad things happen to good people.
  3. It’s okay to take a digital detox and sign-off for awhile.
Improving your online behavior.

The foundation of online behavior is civility. In an age of cruelty and trolling, we must learn to use our keypads wisely.

3 C’s of online behavior:

Conduct: Check-in with yourself before you post online. Become self-aware of your emotions before you hit send. Anger is temporary, online is forever.

Content: Will it embarrass you or someone else? Fifteen minutes of humor is never worth a lifetime of humiliation. Keep in mind, jokes don’t always translate the same digitally as they do offline.

Caring: Care enough about yourself that if you are about to leave a snarky or mean comment, click-out.

5 Ways to take a safer selfie.
  1. Keep your clothes on. Avoid provocative or inappropriate photos. According to the latest CareerBuilders survey, 40 percent of employers will eliminate potential candidates if they find these in their social media streams.
  2. Driving while taking a selfie. It’s is a sure sign of an irresponsibleperson. Distracted driving kills.  There is nothing cool about it.
  3. Avoid funeral selfies. These are not only in poor taste, the YouGov survey overwhelmingly concurred with a 81 percent agreeing they are unacceptable.
  4. Don’t drink and selfie. Although you may think you look hot at that moment, it’s those post and tweet regrets that can catch up with you later. They can cost you more than a hangover with the majority of workplaces that now have social media policies in place – your online behavior is never off the clock.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings. What is in the picture with you? For example, drugs, knives, guns, etc. Using common sense can go a long way before posting your own image.



For media:

Contact Sue Scheff for topics concerning online shaming, online reputation, cyberbullying and issues surrounding digital life for both young people and especially adults. We’re all a click away from digital disgrace. Learn to be proactive with your keypad – not reactive.

If you would like a copy of her latest book, Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate (Sourcebooks, October 2017) with a featured foreword by Monica Lewinsky, please note that in your contact email.


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